If Windows 7 Were My Idea …

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Microsoft’s “Windows 7 was my idea” ad campaign promises to give users everything they have ever wanted from an OS, but what would you add to make Windows truly your idea?

It’s been three months since I installed 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate on my primary work system. Windows 7 runs without crashing much, starts and shuts down faster than Vista did on the same machine, and has a lot of pretty slideshow backgrounds to stare at. However, I would not say the new OS has revolutionised the way I compute – or that it has made any significant changes to my day-to-day operations at all.

I like it well enough, but Windows 7 and I are definitely out of the honeymoon period, having moved into that phase where every flaw is magnified and every nit worth a pick. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s pervasive “Windows is My Idea” billboard campaign reminds me day in and day out as I commute to work that things that annoyed me for years about Windows are still present in Version 7 – and that new annoyances have been added to the list.

What would I want added to the OS to make Windows truly my idea?

First, if Windows were my idea, it would have a built-in PDF reader. I love how Microsoft’s website posts tons of documentation in PDF, yet the format is not actually natively supported in Windows. I know there are plenty of free PDF readers just a download away, and I know Microsoft is worried about getting sued by the EU or someone else if they do add one. But, honestly, Windows is pretty much the only platform I use on a regular basis that can’t preview a PDF natively. My iPhone and BlackBerry devices can read them, as can my MacBook and my Ubuntu virtual machine instance.

If Windows 7 were my idea, I could pin the update application to the Start Menu the same way everything else can be pinned. Or I could set up separate installation rules for signatures (for the included Windows Defender) and patches. That way, I could review and choose to install patches on my timelines, while letting signatures auto-install. Heck, my Windows would provide a framework through which I could see which of my third-party applications needed a patch and then install them easily through a single update mechanism. Then I wouldn’t need 47 separate update applications running in the background, each working differently depending on how my security was configured.

If Windows 7 were my idea, there wouldn’t be different syntax for different search strings. Why is it necessary that some search criteria need a colon and an equal sign (kind:=) while others need just a colon (datemodified:11/16/2009)?

If Windows 7 were my idea, I wouldn’t need different remote access technologies for my main computer and for the XP Mode virtual machine Microsoft tells us enterprises need for backward application compatibility. DirectAccess-secured connectivity is totally cool and easy to use, unless you need access back to corporate from an XP Mode-enabled application, in which case you still need an IPSec client.

If Windows 7 were my idea, Internet Explorer 8 wouldn’t make MSN.com the default home page when selecting the Express configuration. Who reads that page? At least point me to Bing by default. And stop asking about Suggested Sites. No one wants those.

If Windows 7 were my idea, it would provide disk and removable disk encryption to every SKU, not just Enterprise and Ultimate – or at least offer it as a stand-alone upgrade for a small fee. How secure can enterprise data be when users can encrypt a file to a USB drive at work, take it home to finish it up on their home computers, and then can’t re-encrypt the file to take it back to the office the next day? People use their home computers for work, Microsoft. Maybe you could help them be safe while doing it.

Finally, if Windows 7 were my idea, I would allow users to natively mount ISOs. With the rise of netbooks and ultraportables, scores of computers don’t have an optical drive at all. Yet we still need an external drive to install Office – even if we already have the ISO instead of a disc.

My boss Jason Brooks added via Twitter, “If Windows 7 were my idea, I wouldn’t hide file extensions.” Hear hear. And, throughout 2009, I’ve heard many readers wish for a return to a classic Start Menu or File Explorer, or for a complete abolishment of User Account Controls. What else do you want from Windows to make it your idea?

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